Distinguishing Phrases from Clauses
To edit your writing well, you will need to study a little grammar. You can master these lessons best if you fully understand the terminology used in them. For instance, consider the following grammatical rules:
- Use a comma before and when it connects two independent clauses but not when it connects two phrases or subordinate clauses.
- Use like before a phrase but not a clause. Use as before either phrases or clauses.
Clearly, applying these rules is impossible without grasping the difference between phrases and clauses. Therefore, study the following definition, which the accompanying exercise will help you to learn.
A PHRASE is any group of words hanging together as a unit but without a subject-predicate pair. Here are four phrases of different kinds:
- a gray suit
- in the birchwood box
- to eat a huge meal
- is still sleeping
A CLAUSE is any group of words containing a subject-predicate pair. The following three clauses illustrate this definition:
- If I should die
- before I wake,
- I pray the Lord my soul to take
A good rule of thumb is that all statements, questions, and commands are clauses, but there are also incomplete sentences that are clauses (“before I wake”), so the only sure way to identify clauses is to find a subject and a predicate.
Here is a link to the PDF worksheet: Phrases and Clauses